Thursday, January 30, 2014

Development And Wonderful Dialogue Do Not Keep The Big Bang Theory Season Six From Settling.

The Good: Character development, Very funny
The Bad: Formulaic plots, Formulaic jokes, No exceptional performances, Raj’s character direction is abruptly changed.
The Basics: The Big Bang Theory Season Six is good, but lacks a universal and rewatchable quality that makes it a tougher sell than many prior seasons of the show.

Long-running comedies are a tough-sell with me. Even the shows I generally enjoy can have a tougher time as they go on, especially if the humor in the show is based on a simple gimmick. Norm’s one-liners on Cheers, for example, become far less memorable as the series progressed, even though they were cute. By comparison, The Big Bang Theory is populated by interesting characters who develop well and by the sixth season, it is easy to enjoy the organic way the show is developing. That said, The Big Bang Theory has a very basic type of humor that is exceptionally predictable by the sixth season, much like the timing and placement of Norm’s quips. The humor in The Big Bang Theory is almost entirely based on the use of overly sophisticated dialogue and the gags that use physical humor usually involve either Kaley Cuoco or Mayim Bialik staring blankly or looking utterly frustrated. The humor is very formulaic and in the sixth season is exceptionally predictable, especially in the broad strokes. The specific lines for the jokes are not predictable, but the timing and nature of all of the jokes in the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory are.

The result is that the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory is fun and enjoyable to watch, but it does not hold up as well as far as rewatchability as some of the earlier seasons. In fact, the only reason to rewatch the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory is for the incredible character development, though even that is not flawless. The writers chicken out on the character arc that has Raj and the comic book store owner Stuart getting closer and closer before the writers abruptly drop the development and replace Stuart with a young woman with crippling social anxiety.

The sixth season of The Big Bang Theory picks up where the fifth season (reviewed here!) left off, with Howard Wolowitz in space. Married to Bernadette now, Howard has not told his mother he is moving out, which leaves him on the International Space Station fighting with both his mother and Bernadette. When Howard returns to Earth, he brags excessively about having been in space, much to the annoyance of all his friends. While Leonard and Penny continue their relationship largely unhindered, Sheldon hires an assistant to look through his childhood journals for a sign of genius. Amy becomes jealous of Alex, but Penny becomes even more jealous of Alex’s flirtations with Leonard, that he seems excited by.

As the three couples settle into their routines, with disruptions like Howard spending quite a bit of money on a three-dimensional printer to make action figures much to the chagrin of Bernadette, Raj finds himself on the outside once again. He and the comic book shop owner, Stuart, become closer and closer. Their almost romantic relationship escalates until Valentine’s Day, when they throw a party for all the single people at the comic book shop and Raj meets Lucy, a terrified young woman who has even more anxiety about meeting people than Raj has with talking to women. After a round of Dungeons And Dragons that climaxes in Sheldon and Amy engaging in virtual foreplay together, Howard lines up a job opportunity for Leonard; a research fellowship on Stephen Hawkins’ team working for six month on a boat!

The characters in the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory grow and develop, though there are no exceptional performances that give any of the performers the chance to showcase anything they have not in seasons prior. This is the season that the show began to trade excessively on the guest stars who popped up for one-shot appearances. LeVar Burton, Bob Newhart, and Regina King make appearances in the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory. The acting is good in the sixth season, but the performances are largely familiar and well within the range of the actors.

In the sixth season, the principle characters of The Big Bang Theory remain:

Sheldon Cooper – He tries to negotiate his life with his relationship with Amy. He is thrilled to interact with his friends playing D&D and moves closer and closer to sex with Amy. He fights with Wolowitz over a parking spot, discovers that Kripke has an edge on him in a proposal for a grant, and tries to adapt to Stuart being in the mix while Wolowitz is in space. He is threatened when Leonard briefly moves out and Amy moves in and is menaced by Stephen Hawkins via Words With Friends. He continues to do his web series “Fun With Flags” and actually gets help with it from Wil Wheaton, LeVar Burton, and Penny,

Amy Farrah Fowler – Head over heels for Sheldon, she begins to feel real pressure to have sex with him. Her desires go largely unmet, save when she gets sick and manipulates him into spending time with her (and touching her). She tries to get him over his need for closure after Alphas is abruptly cancelled,

Howard Wolowitz – Now married to Bernadette, he comes back from space arrogant about having been in space, despite the fact that he pretty much went crazy in the International Space Station. He finally moves out of his mother’s house and actually neglects his friendship with Raj most of the time. When Sheldon unearths a letter from his father, he burns it and lives in uncertainty about what his father had to say to him,

Bernadette – Supporting Howard, she has more outings with Penny, Amy and Raj. She tires of Howard bragging and is furious when he spends thousands of dollars on action figures and a 3-D printer. She supports Howard through the mystery of his father’s letter,

Raj Koothrappali – With all of his friends paired up, he befriends Stuart in a much more meaningful way. While he gets closer to the depressed small business owner, he comes out of his shell quite a bit. On Valentine’s Day, he meets Lucy, who is a flight risk and runs away from his advances repeatedly, though he starts catering dates to her through texts,

Penny – In a stable relationship with Leonard, she gets jealous when she sees Alex hitting on him. She actually performs amazingly well in a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. She finally tells Leonard she loves him and tries to be supportive of him when he is offered the amazing opportunity at sea,

and Leonard Hofstadter – Now with Penny in a pretty stable relationship, he vies for a tenured position when one of the professors at the university abruptly dies. He stops proposing to Penny and becomes furious enough with Sheldon to briefly move out. He enjoys Alex flirting with him, but is not looking for anything more with her. He is thrilled when he has the chance to work on Stephen Hawkins’s team.

On Blu-Ray and DVD, The Big Bang Theory Season Six has minimal bonus features. The gag reel is funny and the featurette on the relationships is very cool for fans of the actors and the characters of the show. But the bonus features are not enough to make the sixth season of The Big Bang Theory worth watching more than one time and makes the boxed set a little less of a value on its own.

For other works with Kevin Sussman, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Weeds - Season 8
Burn After Reading
Changing Lanes
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Almost Famous


For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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